Noticing women mentioning women

I started reading Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes with Wikipedia in the other hand to get different perspectives on all the people Ansary mentions and the stories he tells about the history of Islam and various political figures. At some point this evening I got up to the Moghul Empire and while looking up Babur, felt very excited that his diary is famous. I love diaries and memoirs. While you can get a lot from an overview of history, it’s even better to go straight to some original texts. Well, to translations of them. There were a few versions listed online and on Amazon. I was hoping for a recent version for Kindle that would have decent footnotes and that might have left in any racy bits about crushing out on youths in the marketplace. But the only kindle version was from the turn of the last century. Translator Annette S. Beveridge. I bought it and interrupted my reading of Ansary to dive into the textual mind of Babur.

But first there is a 400 page history of Babur by Beveridge. She opens with a description of how Babur learned everything important from his mother Qut-luq-nigar who was well educated and accomplished. And from his grandmother Aisan-daulat and his older sister Khan-zada. About Khan-zada, Annette says tantalizingly, “Her life-story tempts, but is too long to tell; her girlish promise is seen fulfilled in Gul-badan’s pages.” As you can imagine, I immediately interrupt my reading of Beveridge’s introductory explanations of the important women in Babur’s life to look up all of them, Gul-badan, and Beveridge herself, promising myself that if Beveridge doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet, she will soon.

She did have one and I scurried around adding some corrections to it (it left out that she translated the Baburnama… and she is mentioned in her husband’s article but incorrectly as a translator of Hindu rather than of Persian and Turki) and link-ifying her name elsewhere to point to her article. It turns out she also translated Gulbadan, Babur’s daughter and Akbar the great’s aunt, who wrote the biography of her brother Humayun (the Humayunama) including some of her own and her other relative’s histories.

gulbadan

From Annette’s gloriously boring 400 page preface to her translation of the Baburnama she is revealed as being extremely scholarly, at least it sounds like it! She compares different versions of the Baburnama and is very excited about the Haidarabad Codex.

I may interrupt this book and this blog post now to go read her translation of Gulbadan since in my mind this is basically a 16th century Princess Diary (even if she is writing about her brother).

If you know my interests in history and literature you’ll laugh, because this is so very right up my alley, it’s like catnip for me. (i.e. my projects like Building a Digital Feminary, or my anthology of translations of work by women poets) It will be very interesting to read Gulbadan’s thoughts and Annette’s layers of added meaning as she was a champion of women’s education and, well, at least their right to education (if not to suffrage) as she campaigned to found a women’s college, Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya (School for Hindu Women), later Banga Mahila Vidyalaya. I have no doubt there were hideous colonialist aspects to this, but I also liked reading about her struggles against sexist dudes who wanted to limit women’s education. What I mean though is that whatever mythos she was looking to construct of the elite womanhood of empire, that will likely be revealed in her framing of the Moghul royal women as educated, literary, and “civilizing” influences on the men of the ruling class.

Ansary’s history of the world centered on the Islamic world will be enhanced several layers more deeply by my following these threads of the shadows of the women who by the time it is hundreds of years later and halfway around the world in dusty books, are often left to unnamed roles or relegated to the footnotes. How nice it is to see their names, imagine their lives, and read their translated words. Even when we don’t know their names we know they were there and can work to add them into the dimensions of our mental landscape of history. For me, it is something like an absolute faith or belief — “you were there” and to read some writing like this is deeply validating. (for my own mythos, you might notice, which may be something like, “women can, and do, find each other’s work and make some kind of connection, and pay attention to each other, despite thousands of years of oppression which leads women to do otherwise, across time, cultures, and languages” so that even if I am embedded in the problems of imperialism and translation some form of resistance is there in the process or the result).

Meanwhle, yesterday was Ada’s birthday party, which we all worked a lot to make happen and make it interesting. It was a sort of role playing puzzle game or scavenger hunt in Glen Canyon park. The two teams of teenagers and children ran around the park for hours, guided by Ada and Milo, finding clues, translating the runes and unscrambling the words to give me and Danny (the guardian stone dragons of the hidden amulet) a passphrase. Then, a (confused and confusing, but great) battle between the two teams and the rebels, which was a combat card game a bit like Magic the Gathering, invented and designed by Ada and Milo and drawn by Ada. Puzzles by me, booklet and team badges designed by my sister Laura.

dragonthorne_card_game

Today the children have been gaming and reading the monster manual all day, and they cooked chocolate chip pancakes for themselves and brought breakfast in bed to Danny, on a tray nicely set up with a bud vase with flowers from the garden. I think Milo may have been the cook and Ada the tray-fixer and flower-picker.

This, on the one morning I sneaked out to the cafe to translate. I am about 2/3 of the way through my raw rough draft of Carmen Berenguer‘s new book Mi Lai which should be published later this year or early next year by Cardboard House Press. It is an exciting book and I’ll have more to say about it soon.

Peaceful day in the sun

I spent yesterday puttering around my houseboat and a good bit of the afternoon sitting up on the roof. After a month of illness, I’m finally breathing more normally. I’m also just (today) starting to eat real food. I lost about 15 lbs in the last two weeks, which wasn’t fun at all. Yesterday and today, it was incredibly good to spend time in the sun!

on the roof of the boat

My hair is very bright! I switched dyes from Creative Image to Goldwell Elumen.

All around me as I looked out from the room, people were cleaning their boats, shaking out mats and sails and tarps, bailing their dinghies, having cook-outs on deck, and working on their cars and motorcycles. At high tide, we went up Smith Slough in the electric motorboat, which I love because it’s so quiet and peaceful. I didn’t dare go by myself. I took short naps and followed the news from Egypt. I can’t walk at a normal pace, and have to move very slowly or it’s like being stabbed in the stomach. Despite that, I have to get up and move around, alternating resting with attempts at activity. The kids read, made things with Legos and Zometools, watched Phineas and Ferb, played Peggle, and fished. At some point I also sat on the dock with a long-handled brush and scrubbed the outsides of the kayaks that were within easy reach; for a few minutes part of the general industry of the harbor.

Here is the fish that Oblomovka and his daughter caught. It’s a topsmelt silverside:

closeup of the fish

I had high tea today with my friend Gina for her birthday. Real food! Real caffeine! We talked about our lives, relationships, friends (hooray for gossip), work, school, teaching, and writing.

tea!

I have a bunch to say about books, work, life, death, illness, writing, publishing, social class, and politics — but for now would just like to post that I had a happy and relaxing weekend (despite being in a lot of pain). I’ve felt a bit hopeless and sad. Now things are looking up. I appreciate my family and friends a lot.

Hanging out in India Basin

I was excited to go to meet whoever would show up at Bayview to Breakers: A Ragtag Regatta which wistfully & grandly called for ambitious, weird boats to explore the San Francisco shoreline without motors. We did meet a few awesome people hauling kayaks down a muddy rocky hill to the water, and we puttered around the south bit of the India Basin Open Space trail, making tiny drifter boats out of sticks and grass.

drifter boat

India Basin itself is in Bayview, between Islais Creek and Hunters Point.
India Basin

Here’s a detail from a great map on a postcard from the India Basin Neighborhood Association – more about them later!

So, we started out in the Open Space III part of the park, down Aurelius Walker and looking south towards Open Space II and the power plant. The shipyard and docks between were very intriguing! I wish we could help fix those up. There are a few boats moored there and one hauled out on land. I wish there were still a ton of boats there.

India Basin Open Space

Check out what it used to look like in 1969! A lot more lively and alive. I wonder what changed between then and now? Awareness of the pollution issues? Some other “development” effort that came to naught but ruined what already existed?

We met Chris B., kick ass urban kayaker. Happy birthday Chris!

making drifters

It was cold and drizzly but we had fun. I was dying to get in one of the kayaks. INstead we took off, went to a school BBQ, and came back when it was sunnier a few hours later, to the northern bit of the park. In between were a 24-hour ghost restaurant, the Surfside Liquor store, some housing, and The Box Shop which looks like a great artists’ studio built from shipping containers. A couple of groups were in the park all day – America True, which runs boating events for kids, and the India Basin Neighborhood Association. They fed us, talked with us, gave us kayak and motorboat rides, and were great hosts.

America True kayak event

America True kayak event

I met a very smiley person in a life jacket:
kayaker at India Basin

Melita told me some of the history of the struggle over the area’s development. I always end up listening to long confusing meetings of the Hunters Point Redevelopment council on the radio and am a huge fan of Harrison Chastang’s commentary on city and other news. Later I googled around and read up on the very interesting battle over whether Shipwright’s Cottage was historical enough to be a landmark that would block some condo developer from building giant-ass condos on this bit of privately owned land on the San Francisco shoreline. Clearly the history of that is more complicated that I could absorb in an evening of reading. But I did find wads of city documents, meeting notes, EIRs, the fervid rantings of Francisco da Costa about White Lesbians (capital letters!) butting in to screw up India Basin, and this pathetic and hilarious plea from one of the land owners in question:
Hosted @ http://pics-or-gtfo.com
oKAY then… Anyway, as I looked at the shore and the docks, I imagined them all fixed up, not destroying what’s there but with some more boardwalks and cafes and neighborhood businesses and a working shipyard and marina. Okay, it’s polluted. Probably where I live is too. As long as I’m not smack on top of the radium dial disposal pit. (Or the bit that caught on fire underground in 2000, and they just dumped some more dirt on top of it and crossed their fingers.) I would totally live aboard there and run Community Kayaks. Get some historic ships in there but make it all integral to the community. Get a laundromat and a grocery store and fix up that amazingly cool 24 hour restaurant, not like some kind of attempt at a Fisherman’s Wharf of the Southeast. And … not some kind of nightmarish gentrification which everyone (except real estate developers) wants to avoid.

So about the real estate. How about Albion Castle… a stone castle right on India Basin with its own *caverns* and 10,000 gallons of water per day from the aquifer plus the rights to the brewery name. On sale now for only 1.8 million dollars…

This site, Community Window on the Shipyard has a focus on the Hunters Point Shipyard not India Basin, but it’s a really good site that makes the official “INFORMATION” about the environmental mess and cleanup plans and progress easier to understand.

Also, here’s a link to the India Bay Neighborhood Association

India Basin Neighborhood Association

And back to our beautiful day in the Basin!

India Basin Open Space

My son made a little boat, a two-master, that stayed afloat for an hour until the motorboat ran it over:

drifter afloat

In the riprap along the water by the parking lot there’s a gravelly slope that works well to put in kayaks. We met Dawn and Dan who were helping out and getting people into lifejackets. Dawn turns out to be Dawn Riley of America’s Cup fame. Dan is involved with BAADS, which I just recently joined. Cool!

I got into a 2 seater Old Town “Loon” kayak and tore up the Bay! Me and Milo went as fast as we could. He counted so that our strokes would stay coordinated. We checked out the docks at the old shipyards and went around a buoy. After crutching around the rocks kind of awkwardly, it was great to speed through the spray and I didn’t mind getting wet. Everything was sparkling in the sunlight. I like things like ruined docks and horrible old power plants and grungy marshlands and will definitely be back to kayak around this area. Then the kids had a ride in the motorboat, and I took another kid out in the kayak – he too was into going as fast as possible. We had fun and clearly he could have stayed out there a lot longer.

Motorboat

Afterwards we went to the EcoCenter in Heron’s Head Park, just north of India Basin. It was gorgeous, but closed and looks like it’s been closed since mid-July. I didn’t realize this from the EcoCenter Blog! We enjoyed walking around it anyway. I like the way the tanks look, and the wooden walls.

EcoCenter

However, I find that Da Costa the environmental activist and slightly off base and racist ranter really, really does not like the EcoCenter or the Heron’s Head park (or, really anything but the mythical golden past) because putting a park and a children’s education center in the middle of a toxic waste dump is horrible. He kind of has a point there — and yet visiting a park is a lot less horrible than building giant non-earthquake-safe condos in the middle of it all and seems like a good use of land that has been messed up. It means that someone goes there and has a reason to go there and a reason to keep cleaning it up. Here’s some alternate reports and data on Heron’s Head Park aka Pier 98 from Literacy for Environmental Justice, which you know is good and friendly because it’s all in Comic Sans.

My thoughts on the shoreline: we could probably figure out how to test the toxicity of things in the area ourselves. Not like I know how, but it should be possible. Do some soil and water tests now and keep doing them! My other somewhat flippant solution is to put free (and compulsory) housing for the main City government people right in the worst spots. Make their kids go to school there too. Then they will have to haul ass to improve the situation. As a side effect, cowardly do-nothings won’t dare run for office.

Since that won’t happen anytime soon, I wish the neighborhood association luck in their plans to keep the shoreline for public use, for a maximum number of people to enjoy rather than for some gated condo community that a few developers make an obscene profit on out of exploiting the housing market. The shoreline is held in public trust and I like the idea of recreational use combined with historical preservation. To do any of that I think people need an awareness of the neighborhood’s past and present and how environmental racism affects the community and the entire city.

The saga of the Alviso Boat Ramp

The opening of the Alviso boat ramp looked pretty cool. Kayakers and dragon boats gave free rides to whoever showed up, and they had a big party. Chris Pereira-Ponce has a great photo of the ramp.

Go, Alviso! Very cool!!! A long fight that led to free public access to this place that might actually see some use. It could lead to other nice, small scale development that gives people access to the water and shoreline.

The Inflatable Kayak blogger wrote up the launch, with photos. The slough is peaceful, calm, and full of birds, and looks like a great place to kayak.

I found a government record of the project: Alviso Marina County Park Boat Launching Facility Project Blog. There was a meeting in 2005 talking about potential Requests for Proposals. They thought the ramp would be finished by 2006. Ha! After 2 years of entries that read “Status remains unchanged”, here’s how far along things had progressed:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Per Santa Clara County: due to construction calendar constraints as dictated by permits, and the award of the needed grant funding for the project in September 2008, the first foreseeable construction window is considered to be starting June 2009.

Updated: Friday, January 18, 2008

Permit issues, funding issues, land control issues, and environmental concerns have led to unforeseeable delays to this project.

I’d love to know the story behind that, and what the permits, land control, environmental concerns, etc. really were! Yikes!

This summer the ramp opened. It cost 2 million dollars to build. It goes into a narrow slough that’s about the same depth as Redwood Creek in the area where I live — with a low tide channel depth of 4 feet.

There’s a local politician proposing a port, with restaurants, an IMAX theater, and a tiny ferry. That scale of port seems quite unlikely! Get real! How about some decent public bathrooms, boat rental, and an ice cream shop?

I wonder why my town doesn’t do more with the waterfront it has. Here we have a great creek, we already dredge the channel every few years, there’s at least two officially public boat launch ramps into the creek, and yet our waterfront is barely used. Not that I want an IMAX next door. It does seem like there could be more small businesses and it could be much more of a nice destination for local people.

Anyway, I’d like to take my kayaks to Alviso Slough to take a look at what’s there!

alviso-slough-map

You can see from the map that the area of the boat ramp is marked “South Bay Asbestos Area”. Mmmm! Asbestos! I think also a lot of mercury comes down the Guadalupe River from the hills. But seriously, that doesn’t bother me. IMHO if it’s polluted, stick a park on it, put up some warning signs, and start to work on reclamation. I’m going to kayak through the marsh, not roll around it or lick it, and if I fall in I’ll take a shower afterwards. I’m sure whatever pollution there is about a million times less horrible than one afternoon working in a dry cleaners. Anyway, people live there, on that worthless neglected marsh that then gets sold off in chunks to Cisco for umpty-gazillion dollars so they can build some giant parking lots on it.

So, 2 million dollars! Could you build a decent boat ramp meant for kayaks for less than 2 million dollars? I could.

Kayaking to the laundry room

We had a grand expedition yesterday for lunch. Moomin and I put in the laundry, then kayaked off around the point from our tiny harbor to a dock accessible only from a huge ladder. It leads to a locked gate on Middle Bair Island, which used to be “reclaimed salt ponds” and is now a wildlife reserve. It was low tide. We picked up trash from the kayaks with our nets, and swooped in to tie up to the barnacled, soggy lower rungs of the ladder. From the top we could see nesting Canada geese and the sparkly ponds on the islands, and across the slough to Highway 101.

Spring Break

We ate our snacks, carefully got back in the kayaks, avoiding disasters of mud & barnacle & escaped boats, paddled another half mile up the slough, then came back to the laundry room docks & put things in the dryer. Then, a quick trip around the point, the current at our backs.

Spring Break

It’s amazing to be able to move around so easily. For the first time I understand what people mean when they say exercise is calming and improves one’s mood. I feel glowing and powerful. My leg still hurts, but kayaking harder doesn’t make it worse, so I don’t worry about pushing myself too hard (unlike walking or swimming.) Though reading in bed with Moomin is good, I’m glad to be able to do something new — this is better than enduring a long drive and grueling wheelchair trips through crowded museums or the zoo (hills!!! ugh) things I can barely stand to do even though I want him to have fun experiences. So, boating! It doesn’t hurt!

Last night I went out again for 20 minutes or so and measured the current in the creek with the upcoming tide. It was 3 miles an hour – and I’ve felt it stronger.

The low tide trip with Moomin must have been nearing slack water because there was almost no current – no wind – almost effortless to paddle.

Moomin’s spring break is turning out great, with lots of reading and boating. Here’s the rhythm we’re getting into: I wake up at 7, work, he gets his own breakfast when he wakes up later, then we eat a quick lunch or pack “provisions” into the boats and take off for an hour or two. Then I work more. We’ve had some extra reading time together in the afternoons, and then he has hip hop classes till 5:30. I end up working late at night a bit, but as long as I get some good time with him that’s been okay.

Spring Break